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SC&P's Power Trio?
This week's Mad Men episode is a series of short stories about disappointment. Every character we see—and in that regard it's noteworthy that we don't see Pete Campbell at all this week—isn't getting what he or she wants from life.

We start with Don Draper, of course, returning to Roger Sterling and then SC & P with hat literally in hand, having possibly ruined another marriage because of his lies. And after some mishegoss with the partners, he's extended an offer to return, but on terms so humiliating that his eager-sounding acceptance at the episode's end suggests that maybe Don's finally been humbled enough to change.

For Peggy and Joan, among others at SC & P, Don's return marks a disappointing, unwelcome return to the chaos he can bring to their lives, as well as for Peggy a reminder of his role in encouraging Ted to flee to California. Sure, Peggy may be frustrated at Lou Avery's lack of interest in her creative skills, but perhaps it's a form of disrespect she can handle better than Don's that's what the money is for! narcissism.

Harry Crane (hi! welcome to the season!) wants a computer, though it sounds like Jim Cutler may get him one. Dawn, meanwhile, is finding that her promotion into (half of) Joan's old job may not actually be terribly enjoyable.

Megan, of course, is disappointed with her unreformed husband, still lying, still avoiding. And isn't it odd that just like Don's relationship with Betty's therapist, Megan's agent also is using Don as a backchannel which looks horrifying in the 21st century.

And, oh, Betty. Always able to find the lone cloud on a sunny day, and I don't think Bobby's ever going to be able to enjoy gumdrops ever again.

Matt Zoller Seitz:

For all Don’s continued entitled-male behavior (especially in Los Angeles; “Thanks for the visit, daddy,” Megan tells him), he seems more genuinely contrite than in early seasons. He’s not too much of a better man, but he’s definitely trying. He could’ve gone off with that mysterious woman he met on the plane in the season premiere but didn’t. He’s still drinking, but not as much, and in this episode we see him ask a flight attendant on the New York–to-L.A. connection for tomato juice instead of booze. When Megan quite understandably accuses him of cheating on her again, his distress as he insists on his fidelity feels desperate yet true. He wants to stop what Freddy referred to in the season premiere as a “Cyrano de Bergerac routine” and get back to work, even if it means accepting limits on his autonomy. These are all signs of maturity. Don’s in his early forties, but hey, better late than never. Truly.
Sonia Saraiya:
In almost every crucial scene in this episode, Don is seated. He’s seated at the meeting with the partners; and he’s seated in that moment with Lou at SD&P. I think he’s even reclining when he tells Megan he was fired. What I noticed most of all, though, is that he’s seated when he meets Peggy again. Because even though she’s pretty short, she’s looking down at him while speaking. There’s some clear communication happening in the blocking....

Betty and Peggy are bitter because they’re stuck in a kind of infantile power struggle with Don. He’s always been the one who paternalistically called the shots in their relationships. It made more sense with Peggy, because he was her boss. But with Betty—and Megan, as you point out—the father-figure is a convenient and vacant role. You might argue that Don is clearly working through a dynamic with his mother through the women in his life, with Sally as the natural endpoint. Look at his sudden rage when Dawn can’t pay attention to his beck and call over the phone. Or his self-righteous anger when he tells Megan that her agent summoned him to L.A. It’s a type of tantrum he’s throwing.

Originally posted to Adam B on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 04:52 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The entire sequence of Don waiting at SC&P (10+ / 0-)

    was painful to watch; for a few minutes I almost thought it was a bad dream he was having.  It held that sickening feeling of being out of place, not really wanted, not welcomed (except from a few of the creatives).  And Don wearing an ugly brown suit? When has he ever done that?

    the woman who is easily irritated

    by chicago minx on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 06:15:47 PM PDT

  •  DKos is evolving into HuffPo Lite (0+ / 0-)

    Which front pager is going to blog the next Lindsay Lohan meltdown?

  •  Burt's been bit of an asshole this season.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thankgodforairamerica
  •  Even for 1963 (4+ / 0-)

    that dress was probably pretty tacky.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 06:49:59 PM PDT

  •  I mean no offense, Adam B (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zadatz

    I've always enjoyed your political posts. And that photo of the immortal Larry Fine makes me like you more than you could know. But...

    I stopped going to ThinkProgress because I got tired of scrolling past endless front-page TV commentary from Alissa Feinberg. It's just not what I went there for. It's a great blog, but a POLITICAL blog.

    I will never stop coming in here (to many folks' everlasting disappointment in hearing that, I'm sure), and I know the blog has to try different things to ensure maximum readership and loyalty. But this isn't why people come in here.

    That said, good luck. I hope lots of people read this post and any others you and others contribute on TV or film commentary. It just won't be me.

    "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

    by DaddyO on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 06:52:58 PM PDT

  •  Uncle!!....I'll try the first season.....again.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thankgodforairamerica

    I must be missing something.

  •  wow- hadn't noticed pete campbell's absence (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snazzzybird, kerflooey, Betty Pinson

    i love Francine. haven't seen her in a while. betty really, really wanted Francine to know how good she has it now. i remember how embarrassed Betty was when Francine was talking to Betty about theircheating husbands. Francine kind of admired how betty coped with don's cheating, but Betty didn't even know don was cheating.

    kind of neat how you mentioned Betty's therapist and don talking. Betty only found out about that because of Francine. If Francine hadn't talked about the phone bill, Betty never would have stumbled upon her shrink's phone number.

    Poor Betty. I think Francine was probably her best friend, and now theydon't even seem to like each other anymore.

    Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy. -Dr. Brene Brown

    by thankgodforairamerica on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 06:58:21 PM PDT

    •  Deja vu (or maybe deja view) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thankgodforairamerica, Adam B
      Poor Betty. I think Francine was probably her best friend, and now they don't even seem to like each other anymore.
      As a Sopranos fan, that scene in the restaurant reminded me of a similar scene near the end of that series, with Carmela Soprano and Angie Bonpensera as the ladies at lunch.  They once had been Mafia wives together, but now Angie was a high-energy, multitasking businesswoman, having taken over running her late husband's autobody shop.  There sat Carmela, a beautifully dressed and bejeweled homemaker, with one child in college and the other soon to graduate high school - looking down the future at that same empty house Francine was talking about.  Angie's kids were grown up too, but she had a purpose in her life, and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from making it in a man's world.  The two onetime close friends had nothing in common anymore.

      (Matthew Weiner might even have written that Sopranos episode, for all I know.)

      George W. Bush: Commit war crimes, then paint pictures. Reverse of how the other fellow did it. — billmon

      by snazzzybird on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 07:54:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  i resisted the sopranos for years (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        snazzzybird

        i'm part Italian (Sicilian) and i don't like watching us portrayed as criminals. after a few years i did cave in and started watching the show.

        if mad men ends to a journey song, I'm gonna lose my shit.

        interesting about Carmella having a similar scene.

        Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy. -Dr. Brene Brown

        by thankgodforairamerica on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 03:04:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Megan may have gotten the best line (5+ / 0-)

    when she (quite fairly) noticed that Don's explanation made things worse, because he had all of that free time, but still stayed away from her. That said, I really thought this relationship ended last season.

    Of all the characters, I thought Joan was least well-written this week. But I guess the writers needed Roger to be Don's savior, reasserting his authority after last week's humiliation. Maybe the larger point is that the writers have failed to keep to mind, in great detail, every character's subtitles and attitudes. That's fine for 80s TV (nobody cares if Lt. Worf is an asshole this week and understanding in a similar situation next week). But it doesn't work in a high-minded soap opera like Mad Men.

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 07:10:52 PM PDT

    •  joan really hates don- (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Adam B

      i think it's all wrapped up in how disgusted she was with sleeping with the car guy. if don hadn't come to her place that night, she probably wouldn't hate him so much.

      i get it that she always had to clean up after don started sleeping with secretaries, and she was hurt when don threw away the account she slept with the gross car guy to land. maybe she could have gotten past that though. i really think it's don coming to her apartment when she felt so raw that is making it so hard for her to stomach don anymore.

      it makes sense that joan still really hates don. i would have been confused if she was nice to him.

      poor roger. he really needs don.

      i can't stand Peggy. i hope stan and don get along really well and it pisses Peggy off.

      Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy. -Dr. Brene Brown

      by thankgodforairamerica on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 03:16:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Don may not know Megan (3+ / 0-)

      but neither does she know Don. It's obvious why he hid his layoff from work from her, and it had nothing to do with him not wanting to be with her.

      He was ashamed. It goes to the very essence of his sense of self as a man.

      •  Totally, that was pretty obvious (2+ / 0-)

        but he should have TOLD HER. She's his WIFE. It's not like they're going to lose their house, or that he's dying.

        He got told to go away for a while - and he's still a partner and still being paid. He should have gone to LA and hung around with Pete and Ted and spent time with his WIFE.

  •  Poor Bobby (9+ / 0-)

    He was trying to be nice to a girl who didn't have a sandwich, and Betty made him feel like crap. She's a real piece of work.

    It will be interesting to see if Don breaks the terms of his agreement. Don Draper not allowed to tipple in the office? It just doesn't see right.

  •  That first sentence (0+ / 0-)

    Encapsulates why I can never get into this show. Just not my thing. I tried a few times, but no dice.

  •  Great closing song (6+ / 0-)

    If Six Was Nine

    I wonder if there's a message there?  I get the feeling Don is moving forward, trying to be a better person more honest with himself and others but still doing his own thing.

    Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

    by Betty Pinson on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 08:21:20 PM PDT

    •  "I'm the one who's going to have to die . . . (2+ / 0-)

      when it's time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to".  

      More foreshadowing, perhaps, of the fact that Draper's character literally dies with the end of the series.

      The Hendix song is also kind of ironic, because Draper is returning to his old job on the basis of a set of new very restrictive rules.

      People can find freedom within constraints, but the kind of constraints that his partners were talking about were designed to kill off a kind of individual genius and push more towards a safer kind of collaborative, tested, polished and branded product.  e.g. there is a push to create a set of processes and procedures that are more like an assembly line, so that individual members can be replaced more easily.

      •  i thought they wanted him to say no (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elmo, NotGeorgeWill, Betty Pinson

        thanks for the lyrics- i love jimi hendrix so much. every song feels like he's kissing my neck.

        i wish they had shown more of when the partners were talking about the terms. it bugs me how mean Joan is being to don now, but i get it. back when he staggered late into a meeting after hooking up with the surgeon's wife, Joan looked repulsed when she caught a whiff of him.

        probably a good thing joan won't be assigning don his secretary. she might have ida Blankenship exhumed and stationed outside his office.

        i hope don and joan become friends again. they were so cute together in the bar that afternoon.

        who's in lane's office now? is it empty, or is someone being displaced?

        i think they came up with those ridiculous terms so don would say no and go away.

        maybe Roger will stop being so depressed now that don is back.

        Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy. -Dr. Brene Brown

        by thankgodforairamerica on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 02:49:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The almost certainly made him an offer he could . (2+ / 0-)

          refuse.

          The challenge for some of the partners is that Don's return changes the office power dynamic -- even Joan.  She probably feels some loyalty to the Culter faction, because he bumped her out of her old office and bumped her up another floor.  Her position seems fairly secure, but perhaps she doesn't like the more unpredictable element that Draper presents.  The Cutler faction is much colder and more calculating and perhaps a bit more predictable.  It's definitely a safer option.  The nature of genius, which is how the other partners referred to Draper, is that the upside that it brings is also mirrored by a much bigger downside.

      •  Astute observation! (0+ / 0-)

        I was thinking along the same lines after watching the first couple of epis this season.  The new version of the agency is very regimented, not creative.  

        Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

        by Betty Pinson on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 09:30:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You can even see it in the reaction . . . (0+ / 0-)

          of the old staff to Draper.  It's almost like a kind of liberation day, people are happy to see him.  Even Peggy's reaction is kind of conflicted response; you get the sense that she's frustrated with all of her bosses, but that maybe Draper offered the most creative freedom of the three bosses that she had worked for.  

          The environment under Draper was chaotic, but creative and had an element of freedom -- the personal bleed into the office dynamic.  The office under the new management is regimented and less free in some respects, but at least on the surface the personal is more compartmentalized.  

      •  I think the sober Don will be a force (0+ / 0-)

        to be reckoned with.  He hasn't lost any of his creative genius.  His more self-reflective, constructive approach to his work and relationships could work very well in helping him move to greater professional heights.

        There were several mentions of how his professional reputation has suffered from his drinking/womanizing binge.  Now that he's reconciled his personal demons, he doesn't seem to be dwelling on the reputation problem.  He's more focused on creating and proving to himself and his family that he's a better person.  He's still a proud iconoclast, though, in the professional world.

        Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

        by Betty Pinson on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 09:48:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Think this is probably a very good prediction . . (0+ / 0-)

          of where things are going.

          Some of this may have been hinted at in the remark that Roger made to him about how one of the guys at the Hershey meeting, had a kind of come to Jesus/Road to Damascus moment following the pitch from Don.  The pitch nearly cost Draper his job, but it also had a level of honesty and power that some of his earlier work didn't.  I may have to rewatch that episode since it seems like it's probably pretty important for understanding the context of this season.   The Hershey pitch could be seen as a counterpoint to the work that his firm pitched to the tobacco company in the first episode (something that was foreshadowed by his letter about the tobacco company once the firm lost the client).  

          Advertising is all about selling an image and an emotion attached to the image, and a lot of times a compelling falsehood or a half-truth sells best.  

          Maybe this is a move towards something that more closely approximates an attempt at "truth in advertising"; where appearance and reality are more closely aligned.  Draper's pitches and ideas reflect his more integrated personality.  

    •  i guess people can change (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Betty Pinson

      i kind of liked it though how it always seemed don was incapable of growing. i was going to be really annoyed if he had a good marriage with Megan after he was so awful to Betty.

      it is different for him to stay where he is and not start over somewhere else.

      Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy. -Dr. Brene Brown

      by thankgodforairamerica on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 03:33:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Right on Mr. Businessman (2+ / 0-)

      I don't care. I don't care.

  •  I have to chime in that I love this diary (6+ / 0-)

    and I love Mad Men.  I agree that if you don't want to read about a subject, then don't go there.  

    Mad Men, IMHO, has a place here because it is a reminder of the attitudes and behaviors that used to exist and that, if the Tea Party has its way, would be the norm again -- doctors telling women not to be sluts with their new birth control pills or they would stop prescribing them, people saying "put the African American secretaries (who are just as competent if not more so) in the back so that no one can see them from the lobby", grown men having a woman sleep with a client so that they could get the deal.  Mad Men is the gentle and sometimes not so gentle reminder to make sure we all remember (or that those of us too young to remember really experience what that world was like) so that we do NOT forget what life was like when only the rich white men were in charge.

    The GOP -- Hating Women, Gays and People of Color since 1854
    PS Despite the dumb screenname I picked, I'm female!

    by Former Chicagoan Now Angeleno on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 10:05:36 PM PDT

  •  The thing that was confounding at the end . . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thankgodforairamerica

    was that Draper basically gave up his leverage with the firm.  Rather than forcing them to buy him out, he agreed to terms that effectively sacrificed his ownership interest for nothing.  We never saw him sign a new contract, just give a verbal commitment to the terms.

    It may be that he's more interested in working again -- even within the constraints that are being offered, and that money is less of an issue for him at this point.  At the very end of the episode it looked like he had the option of walking out the door to another firm -- not clear based on what terms, but he seemed to be heading that direction when fate intervened (e.g. in the form of old staff sucking him back in).  Perhaps it's a function of the narrative constraints and the reality that the show's creators have a limited number of episodes to tie everything up and having Draper start all over again in a new firm would have pretty effectively divorced Draper from the universe of other characters that viewers have come to know as part of the story going back several seasons.  That exit might have been a bit more realistic, but in narrative terms it wouldn't have resolved anything.

    To keep with the Dante theme from the prior season, last season was the descent into hell.  The beginning of this season has been purgatory.  Presumably we get a little Paradiso towards the end, which would be an odd way take things from the 1960s into the 1970s.  

    Figure that Draper is being set up as a kind of Christ-figure (he's spent his time in the "desert" and is surrendering to his circumstances, presumably for the benefit of others, which would be a departure from his more self-indulgent past).

    Hopefully they don't go too far out for the melodramatic archetypes, because part of the appeal of the series has been the attempt to create a high-quality soap opera, Dickensian style TV-serial, that still keeps a foot planted in a kind of reality that has some familiarity and approachability.  

  •  FFS, isn't it time to stop debating whether or not (4+ / 0-)

    these diaries should or should not exist?  This very fine one has been ongoing for over a year.  Anything that exists on the internet for over a year has squatter's rights in my book and should be deemed "permanent" (in internet time).  

    It's 3:00am for me and I want to wind down.  I like reading this diary and every comment because I like Mad Men.  Popular culture is relevant to politics.  R&R is relevant to politics.  Shared experiences are relevant.  Is it too much to ask to beg diary shitters to keep the hell out?

    "There's been a little complication with my complication"

    by dash888 on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 03:07:04 AM PDT

  •  Don't forget, Megan is also disappointed (2+ / 0-)

    by her career.  My take was that she didn't get the part that was discussed at dinner with Don and her agent in the season's first episode.  Her agent calls Don because she responds to not getting the part by acting out in some career-jeopardizing ways.  The agent wants Don to get her in line for the sake of her future career prospects.  Yeah, not cool.  Megan is a big girl and Don and her agent should let her sink or swim all on her own.  And so if, as hinted,  Don and Megan will part that might be best for her career - she is perhaps not hungry enough given that she has Don's money to support her and cushion the blow of possibly failing as an actor.

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